Thursday, February 22, 2018
Sports

Tanaka strong in Yankees debut

TAMPA — RHP Masahiro Tanaka stood by his locker after a successful Yankees debut, talking about his sharp split-fingered fastball, which made him so successful in Japan.

Even so, Tanaka looked to be more than a one-pitch guy.

Asked how many different pitches he threw Saturday in his first spring training game, Tanaka started counting on his fingers.

"Seven," he said in English.

"I felt pretty good out there," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I was nervous, but it was a really good nervousness. I'm relieved to be able to throw against the batters over here."

Tanaka pitched two scoreless innings, striking out three and giving up two singles in the Yankees' 4-0 win over the Phillies.

Tanaka went in after LHP CC Sabathia and RHP Hiroki Kuroda each pitched two innings. Tanaka went to the mound to a loud ovation from the announced crowd of 10,934.

"A buzz around the park," Sabathia said.

Tanaka was in control the whole way.

"The biggest thing was he looked calm out there," Kuroda said through an interpreter. "And the command was there, so he was good."

Jays: A big relief

DUNEDIN — A benign tumor was the cause of Melky Cabrera's back and leg pain last season, the Blue Jays outfielder told the National Post of Toronto.

Cabrera didn't play after Aug. 1 because of near-constant pain. Tests were inconclusive until doctors in August discovered a walnut-sized tumor wrapped around his spine.

Cabrera told the Post that he heard "tumor" and thought cancer. "I knew one day I was going to die, but I wasn't ready to do that yet," he said.

The tumor was benign. "Now, thank you to God, no pain or nothing. My body's very good," he said. "Everything is normal."

GAME HIGHLIGHTS: RHP Drew Hutchison, who hasn't pitched in the majors since 2012, allowed one hit in two innings and struck out four in a 9-7 loss to the Orioles. "My feel for my offspeed was pretty good," he said. "A couple of sliders were a little loopy, but they're getting there. A couple of them were real crisp. Overall it was a real good day."

Phils: A rocky start

TAMPA — The moment arrived Saturday at 1:36 p.m., when RHP Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez threw his final practice pitches. The announcer at Steinbrenner Field announced: "Now pitching for the Phillies, No. 75, Alfredo Gonzalez."

Not quite. Still, this was finally Gonzalez's chance, 218 days after initial reports of his signing with the Phillies. He twice attempted to defect from Cuba. He was banned from pitching in his homeland when captured the first time. He last pitched competitively in early 2012, and the Phillies paid him a $5 million signing bonus.

Gonzalez struck out the first two batters, both Yankees minor-leaguers, in the third inning, then loaded the bases on two walks and a single. He threw 51 pitches and walked four in 12/3 innings. Basically, the 27-year-old looked like someone who had not pitched in two years.

"The more I pitch," Gonzalez said through an interpreter, "the better I will feel."

Gonzalez's fastball sat at 91-93 mph in his first inning and dipped to 88-90 in the next. When GM Ruben Amaro Jr. announced Gonzalez's addition in August, he said his scouts saw the Cuban throw at 93-97 mph.

"I'm not happy at all," said Gonzalez when asked about his velocity. "I'm not satisfied at all. I believe I have some more in the tank. It should be coming around."

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